—Systemic change begins with personal change—

179: Initiative, the book: Highlights from an interview


This is a podcast about leadership. Initiative is a major part of leadership. If you want to lead environmentally, you need to initiate because the world is likely going in an opposite direction than you want.More fundamental to knowing the parts of leadership is how to learn to do them. You can't lecture or coerce someone to learn to take initiative or to initiate, but lecture and coercion are the main ways our educational system teaches.My next book, Initiative: A Proven Method to Bring Your Passions to Life (and Work), launches in a couple weeks.I wrote it based on my course, where students consistently learned to unearth passions and initiate projects that help others so much they reward them for it, telling me they didn't know they could learn such things, especially in school.On The Leadership Update Brief, host Ed Brzychcy asked perfect questions to give an overview of Initiative. In today's post, I edited just the relevant answers to give that overview.Here's the full conversation.

178: What parenthood teaches us about environmental action


We're living in a world of people who are judging parenting from the view of a partier, which makes sense when you don't have a child -- something to take responsibility for. But we have such a thing, the environment. I know people who used to party a lot. When they have kids they take on responsibility far greater than bringing reusable bags to the store, giving up their old fun lifestyle. I have yet to meet a parent who regretted that responsibility. We can learn from that perspective and apply it to what has effectively been a few centuries of partying on fossil fuels. The joy you wish you could get from exploring nature you can get from protecting it, even if that means picking up other people's garbage.

177: The best advice on making habits last


The challenge for habits isn't starting them. It's not stopping them. I've started many. Actually, I've probably started fewer than most. I've stopped fewer. Mistakes: focusing on starting, wondering the value of it to you, they're mostly valuable, the problem isn't that they aren't valuable, it's that they are and that there are too many, asking how to start. To start is simple. Floss your teeth. The problem is that one day you won't and if you miss one day you can miss two. If you miss two, it's all over. Aristotle's quote on excellence Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." Lombardi's quote Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do things right once in a while; you do them right all of the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing. Today's post gives the top advice you'll hear on how to maintain habits.

176: The folly of chasing efficiency


Silicon Valley, governments, and lots of people are pushing for efficiency. I do too, but only after changing systemic beliefs and goals. The greatest cause of global warming would have looked like the greenest clean energy innovation ever: the Watt steam engine. It led to our environmental problems today more than anything else. We'd be fools to think today's green clean energy will do any different. Changing beliefs and goals will create results, not ignorantly continuing the patterns that got us here, thinking we're different. Efficiency is different than reducing total waste. An LED will never compete with simply turning off the light. If you thought, but the light enables things, that belief, especially if you reflexively believe that the alternative to technology is the stone age, is the cause of global warming and our other environmental problems because it drives continuing the behavior that got us here. What I'm saying won't change that belief. In my experience few things change belief, rarely facts, figures, doom, gloom, guilt, shame. Definitely not continuing what you're doing. What does? New experiences and community. I'm not going to get into leadership and what influences motivations, emotions, beliefs, and behavior, but I'll tell you that if we don't change our behavior and beliefs, if we could magically return CO2 levels to pre-industrial revolution, we'd be back here pretty quickly. And our behavior for centuries has been to make things more efficient, ignoring total waste, which we've increased. Almost nobody wants to consider consuming and producing less, despite reduce, reuse, recycle starting with reduce. Folks, when people say that not acting now means we'll have to act more later to keep the earth able to maintain a population and society something like ours, they mean it. And people have been saying that for generations. If you believe efficiency only will make a difference, you aren't changing at all. You're doing exactly what got us here. Change would be to reduce.

172: If anything, I’m a maximalist


When many people enter my apartment for the first time say something about it being minimalist. I feel like I have a lot of stuff because I have many things I don't need, mean to get rid of, but haven't. Apparently, my amount of many things is well below most people's thresholds. I also bristle at people labeling me, so whatever the label, I usually don't like it. But the label minimalist especially bothers me. I think it's backward. I've tried a lot of things in life -- sports, art, science, entrepreneurship, business, religion, reading, writing, travel, meditation, yoga, dancing, clubbing, girls, solitude, and more than I can list. Through it all, certain things always resurface and come back as the most valuable and meaningful, bringing the most joy, satisfaction, happiness, and what I want most in life. Relationships with family, with friends I have emotional, intellectual, and when appropriate physical intimacy, where we've allowed ourselves to open up and be vulnerable, the beauty of nature in sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, responsibility for how my actions affect others, stewardship of the resources we share, contributing to something greater than myself, leading to a sense of oneness, teamwork, duty, honor, learning, striving to make myself and my world in some way better tomorrow than today, harmony, service, freedom. None of these things require material possessions. On the contrary, stuff gets in the way of many of these things. Read the transcript.

171: The “best kept secret in environmental leadership”


I love watching Dr. Michael Gregor's videos on nutrition. A common theme of his videos is how medical school barely teach doctors nutrition and exercise despite how important they are for health. He shows how industrial food companies promote profit over healthy diets and expensive, risky medicine over avoiding foods and sedentary lifestyles that cause the problems they purport to solve. He provide his videos for free to make available what saved his grandmother's life: healthy food. Dr. Michael Greger from Nutritionfacts.org I see diseases from eating junk and living inactively like headaches from hitting your head against a wall. You can take medicine to decrease the pain, but stopping hitting your head against the wall will work better, cost less, and result in no side effects. Likewise, you can take medicine to fix the problems from a standard American diet, but you might as well switch to vegetables, fruit, legumes, and other foods that don't sicken you. They taste better and cost less when you learn how to shop for them. Actually, changing to fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, etc in my experience worked better because besides the health and cost benefits, it's delicious, which not hitting your head against a wall doesn't match. He's posted hundreds of videos worth reposting, but I'm choosing today's because it's relevant to environmental leadership. He published the transcript, which I'm going to read from and comment on to show its relevance to environmental leadership. I believe what he calls the best kept secret in medicine can guide us to the most valuable lesson for environmental stewardship and clean air, land, and water. I recommend watching the video if you haven't already. https://youtu.be/0W_OBRmAz2Y Dr. Gregor starts: Even though the most widely accepted, well-established chronic disease practice guidelines uniformly call for lifestyle change as the first line of therapy, physicians often do not follow these guidelines. Yet lifestyle interventions are often more effective in reducing heart disease, hypertension, heart failure, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and deaths from all causes than almost any other medical intervention. I add: The same follows for environmental leadership. Everyone knows that lifestyle change to pollute less is the most effective way to protect the environment, but few environmental leaders do. On the contrary, they tell others to but they don't themselves. Case in point: when I thought about, say, coal miners in Kentucky, when I thought about them losing their jobs, which would undermine their longstanding communities, I would say that while challenging, the coal miners have to accept that times are changing, that their field pollutes, and they have to change. However it affects their job, their family, and their community, they have to change. But then when I asked myself about, say, reducing flying, I would think, “sorry, I can't change, my job requires it.” or my family requires it. Same with eating less polluting foods, reducing plastic, etc. That is, when I thought about others changing, those others have to accept the change personally for the good of the species. When I thought about myself changing, the exceptions I didn't accept from others, I thought the world had to accept from me. In other words, I was very slippery on applying difficult standards on others to myself. I don't know you, but if you've flown or used unnecessary plastic recently, you're probably equally slippery. You probably hide it from yourself, as I did, which we call denial. Denial is easier than changing your lifestyle, but it also twisted me up inside, since part of me knew I was lying to myself, which was all the more twisted for someone pursuing and teaching leadership. I look for reasons to justify not changing, not looking beyond the here and now. Yesterday I may have thought, “I'm going to avoid packaged food for a week,” but today my friends just opened a bag of chips. What's one chip or two? Besides, they opened it, not me. That's how I felt for a long time before just committing to the practice, overcoming the hurdle, and learning to avoid nearly all packaged food. Now it's easier, cheaper, more convenient, more social, and better in every way I care about, as I've mentioned here many times, though I don't hold to zero packaging, as evidenced by my having to empty my garbage after 16 months. A lot of that garbage was food packaging. Anyway, back to denial. I found an easy way to handle denial is to find someone I looked up to who did what I felt was wrong. For example, even if I knew flying polluted more than scientists said was acceptable, I saw those scientists flying all over the world themselves. While a small part of me asked, “should they do that, aren't they violating their own recommendations?” a greater part said, “If they can fly, so can I,” and I could quiet the feelings of being twisted up inside acting against my values. I was still acting against my values, so the feeling twisted remained. Now back to Dr. Greger. His video shows evidence that doctors who advised lifestyle change while showing they didn't change themselves, for example clearly showing they smoked while advising patients not to smoke, were less effective than those who showed they exercised. See the connection? Scientists or would-be leaders who suggest change that they don't do don't effectively lead. I'm glad Al Gore got us as far as he did, but just like surgeon generals who smoke and promote cigarettes won't lead people to stop smoking, I believe the next step in people living by their environmental values will come from leaders who also live by them. I'll read the rest of Dr. Greger's script. Try to translate mentally from tobacco to pollution, from smoking to flying, eating meat, using unnecessary plastic, and so on, from exercise to wasting less and enjoying living with less waste. If I want to lead, a lot of people consider integrity important in people they consider following. If I say one thing, do another, and tell others to do a third, people aren't going to follow me. Integrity by definition isn't something I can have in one part of my life but not others. I'm only fooling myself if I think I can act with integrity in general when I feel twisted inside from acting against my values. The good news to all this is the discovery of how much better I found my life when I acted by my values. Beyond the twisted feeling being replaced by enthusiasm, community, self-awareness, and so on, I find more happiness, fun, and so on. Quoting Dr. Greger, in what applies to environmental leadership: “Some useful lessons come from the war on tobacco,” Dr. Neal Barnard wrote in the American Medical Association’s Journal of Ethics. When he stopped smoking in the 80s, the lung cancer death rate was peaking in the U.S., but has since dropped, with dropping smoking rates. No longer were doctors telling patients to give their throat a vacation by smoking a fresh cigarette. Doctors realized they were more effective at counseling patients to quit smoking if they no longer had tobacco stains on their own fingers. In other words, doctors went from being bystanders—or even enablers—to leading the fight against smoking. And today, he says, plant-based diets are the nutritional equivalent of quitting smoking. If we were to gather the world’s top unbiased nutrition scientists and experts, there would be very little debate about the essential properties of good nutrition. Unfortunately, most doctors are nutritionally illiterate. And worse, they don’t know how to use the most powerful medicine available to them: food. Physician advice matters. When doctors told patients to improve their diets, which was defined as cutting down on meat, dairy, and fried foods, patients were more likely to make dietary changes when their doctors advised them to.  And it may work even better if doctors practice what they preach. Researchers at Emory randomized patients to watch one of two videos. In one video, a physician briefly explained her personal health, dietary, and exercise practices, and had a bike helmet and an apple visible on her desk. And in the other, she did not discuss her personal practices, and the apple and bike helmet were missing. For example, in both videos the doctor advised the patients to cut down on meat, to not usually have meat for breakfast, and have no meat for lunch or dinner at least half the time, as a simple place to start improving their diets. But in the disclosure video, the physician related that she had successfully cut down on meat herself, and perhaps not surprisingly, patients rated that physician to be more believable and motivating. So physicians who walk the walk—literally—and have healthier eating habits may not only tend to counsel more about diet and exercise, but also appear more credible and motivating when they do so. It may make them better doctors. A randomized controlled interventional trial to clean up doctors’ diets, called Promoting Health by Self Experience, found that healthcare providers’ personal lifestyles were directly correlated with their clinical performance. Healthcare providers’ own improved well-being and lifestyle cascaded to the patients and clinics, suggesting an additional strategy to achieve successful health promotion. Are you ready for the best-kept secret in medicine? The best-kept secret in medicine is that, given the right conditions, the body heals itself. Treating cardiovascular disease, for example, with appropriate dietary changes is good medicine, reducing mortality without any adverse effects. Yes, we should keep doing research, but educating physicians and patients alike about the existing knowledge about the power of nutrition as medicine may be the best investment we can make.” I hope anyone considering leading, whether in the area of the environment or anywhere, gets the hint, that you'll enjoy life more and lead more effectively if you act in accordance with your values. If you value clean air, clean land, and clean water, you'll enjoy polluting less. Here's Dr. Greger's video again: https://youtu.be/0W_OBRmAz2Y Read the transcript.

159: Chris Schembra: Expressing Gratitude


Do you feel gratitude toward people who have helped you? Do you express that gratitude more than enough, not enough, or about right? You're probably familiar with research that expressing gratitude and feeling it improve people's lives. I loved my exercise of writing ten gratitude messages a day for a week. Here is the Inc. piece I wrote on it: I Wrote 70 Gratitude Emails. Here Are My Awesome Results. Today's episode is Chris Schembra interviewing me as part of his project including Bill Gates, Simon Sinek, and other luminaries. He asks us: If you could credit or thank one person that you haven't enough, who is it? The conversation doesn't directly relate to the environment, but does to leadership. The leadership part of this podcast is about joy, passion, meaning, value, importance, purpose, growth, and so on. And what Vince Lombardi says about winning, that it's not a sometimes thing but on all the time thing, applies to leadership. Too many people say things like that coal miners in West Virginia simply have to accept that times have changed, we can't keep digging coal, and if that means your community suffers, well, you'll be better off after the change. These people then refuse to consider polluting less themselves: we just have to accept that their job or their family requires flying, or they love meat too much, or whatever. So today's post is my answer to whom I feel gratitude toward but don't express it. It's personal but so is leadership. I wasn't sure if the conversation was too personal or distinct from the environment, so I won't mind if you let me know if I should share more things like this conversation or less. Chris also hosts regular dinners, so I feel a brotherhood in how we work, based on my famous no-packaging vegetable stews. Read the transcript.

156: Pale Blue Dot Today


If you've never heard Carl Sagan's spoken essay Pale Blue Dot, you'll get to hear it in today's episode. It still chokes me up. Here is an Earthrise image taken a few years ago like those he contrasts the pale blue dot image with. Read the transcript. [caption id="attachment_10745" align="aligncenter" width="800"] The Earth straddling the limb of the Moon, as seen from above Compton crater. Taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2015.[/caption] Here is the Pale Blue Dot image. [caption id="attachment_10744" align="alignleft" width="290"] Seen from about 6 billion kilometers (3.7 billion miles), Earth appears as a tiny dot (the blueish-white speck approximately halfway down the brown band to the right) within the darkness of deep space.[/caption]      

154: Why You, Famous Person, Will Like Being a Guest on this Podcast


Today, I'm sharing what value being a guest offers to influential, well-known people. I call Oprah and her peers the single-name people -- people everyone knows by single names: LeBron, Serena, Sergey, Larry, Barack, Elon, Bill, Mark, Madonna, Giselle, Venus, Meryl, Bruce, Maradonna, Cher, Beyonce, Messi, Jay-Z, and so on. I also mean anyone influential or with an audience -- people in politics, accomplished actors, journalists, singers, artists, and the like, bestselling writers, public speakers, winning athletes, and so on. If anyone listening is someone like them or knows them, this episode is for you. I'll say it bluntly, but nothing you haven't heard before: we could potentially could lose civilization. If we don't, it will likely be because people changed culture. Rare moment in human history, where change can create legacy on the scale we see only every few thousand years. Buddha and Jesus level influence and legacy. This podcast emerged from seeing that we lacked leadership. Every scientist and engineer says we have the technology and other means. The question is will we. That's leadership. We live in a leadership vacuum and you, famous person, can help fill it to great personal growth and joy. You can do it just by being a guest on this podcast. Read the transcript.

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